AZ-NY e-baking session

I got an email from Sheela (one of my closest friends: I have known her for 14.5 years now), asking me for suggestions on what to bake for a couple of Christmas parties she was invited to. She was tempted to bake the Povitica cos it looked so yummy and delicious. Now you have to understand that Sheela does not bake stuff very often (that’s a very big understatement) , she has baked cakes before but those have been the Betty Crocker ready to make cakes. Given her experience with baking, we decided that baking cookies would be a best option. After having baked these delicious cookies, I am glad we decided on cookies. The cookies not only looked amazing but they also tasted absolutely heavenly! Now since she had never made cookies before and I wanted to bake some cookies for Christmas too we decided on baking the cookies together. The only problem was that I live in AZ and Sheela in NY. With all the technology available at our fingertips, that was not going to stop the two of us… We decided to meet online and bake cookies at the same time, e-baking.

Before actually starting with the baking process, there were a lot of items that Sheela had to purchase (almost all the items ;), remember she never bakes). So after a few phones calls we had all the items that were necessary for the two of us to bake cookies. And just so that we had some excitement, we decided that we need to bake two different kinds of cookies. A shortbread variety and the thumbprints. Oh and Sheela did not have a hand mixer but these cookies turned out just fine with (I used a hand mixer) or without a hand mixer. Since I had the hand mixer, I would say a batch of shortbread cookies would take about 30-45 mins to bake. The thumbprints would take about the same amount of time. I will first list out the ingredients and recipe for the shortbread cookies and then for the thumbprints.

A few days back I bought the cookies, brownies and bars by Elinor Klivans. It was on sale and the pictures inside the book really caught my eye. I am definitely a very visual person… :). Ever since I bought the book I have been eyeing the shortbread recipe. And the other recipe that looked even more yummy was the blackberry-pecan thumbprints. Sheela done not like pecans so we substituted the pecans with walnuts instead. Here are the recipes for the two cookies.

Buttery Vanilla Shortbread (makes 16 cookies)

  1. 2 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1/2 cup cornstarch
  3. 1/4 tsp salt
  4. 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  5. 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  6. 1 vanilla bean or 3 tsps vanilla extract
  • Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Have a cookie sheet and a cookie cutter ready to shape the cookies. You could also use a 9.5″ tart pan to bake the cookies.
  • In a bowl sift together the flour, cornstarch and salt.
  • In another bowl combine the butter and sugar. Using a sharp paring knife cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the bowl. If you are using the vanilla extract pour the 3 tsps into the mixture.
  • Next beat the mixture till it is creamy white and smooth, about 4 mins.
  • Slowly add the flour mixture into the sugar and butter mixture, mixing continuously till a dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Divide the dough into 16 equal parts.
  • Using the back of a tablespoon, press the dough into the cookie cutter to a 1/4 inch thick cookie. If using the tart pan just spread the entire dough evenly into the tart pan.
  • Using a fork prick the surface of the cookie (either in the tart pan or the individual cookies)
  • Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet or the cookie sheet only (if baking individual cookies) in the pre-heated oven.
  • Bake the cookies for about 45-50 mins (if using the tart pan) and about 15-20 mins is baking individual cookies till the center of the shortbread cookies are lightly brown. (Make sure to check on the cookies in about 10 mins if you are baking individual cookies).
  • If you are baking the cookie in the tart pan make sure that you cut the wedges when the cookie is still warm. Once it cools a bit, you can slide the wedges off the pan and onto wire racks to cool. For individual cookies transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let it cool.

I made simple circular shortbread cookies but Sheela made some fancy looking ones – christmas tree shaped, gingerbread men and snowmen… And now for the blackberry – walnut Thumbprints.

Blackberry-Walnut Thumbprints (makes 20 cookies)

  1. 2 cups all purpose flour
  2. 1/4 tsp salt
  3. 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  4. 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  5. 2 large egg yolks
  6. 2 tsps vanilla extract
  7. 1 cup finely chopped walnuts (or pecans or any nuts you like)
  8. 1/4 cup blackberry jam (or any jam you like)
  • Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper (I used a  silpat in the cookie sheet).
  • In a bowl sift together the flour and salt.
  • In another large bowl combine the butter and sugar. Beat the two together on medium speed until well blended about 1 min.
  • Now add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and beat on slow speed till the yolks are completely incorporated.
  • Next add the four mixture slowly to the butter mixture and beat on low speed till the flour is completely incorporated.
  • Scoop out a rounded tablespoon of dough and flatten it between your palms.
  • Lightly roll the dough in the finely chopped walnuts to coat the dough with the nuts completely and place it on the parchment paper.
  • Continue with the rest of the dough, placing the cookies about 2″ apart from each other.
  • Now using your thumbprint (that’s where the name comes from), press an indentation about 1/4 inch deep in the center of each cookie.
  • Spoon about 1/4-1/2 tsp  jam into the indentation and bake the cookies until the bottom and the edges of the cookies are slightly brown. This would take about 20-30 mins.
  • Let the cookies cool on a wire rack for about 5 mins.

These cookies look absolutely beautiful and they taste even better. I am sure all those who ate these cookies would agree to this. I love shortbread cookies so am very glad that I can bake them at home now. But the thumbprint cookies were an absolute surprise. It was definitely the star this Christmas.  They are crisp (cookie itself), toasty (nuts on top) and chewy (blackberry jam) all at the same time.  And hats off to Sheela, for her first time baking cookies she made a lot of cookies. 2 batches of shortbread cookies and 2 batches of the thumbprints. Happy New Year everyone and hope your Christmas was as fun as mine!


  1. Neha Sane says:

    Hey Shilpa,

    I am a friend of Sheela’s and tasted these cookies when she baked them for one of the Christmas parties. I absolutely fell in love with them and then later baked them myself. I cannot wait to try the rest of the treats! Keep experimenting and keep inspiring amateur cooks like us!

    • shilpamshinde says:

      Thanks Neha…. I am glad you liked the cookies…. Must give Sheela credit for all the hard work she put in making the huge batches of cookies… And kudos to you for trying them out yourself…. :)

  2. Neha Sane says:

    Hi Shilpa,

    I was planning on baking some shortbread cookies today and I have a question with regard to that. Why do we need to prick the cookies? Would it still work if we did not?



    • shilpamshinde says:

      Hi Neha,

      The cookies puff up and are shapeless as you have no control over how much each one will puff up. By pricking the top of the cookies you make sure that even if they do, it is controlled and they dont puff up and kind of explode. I would recommend that you do prick them cos when I baked them I could see that if I did not prick them, they would puff upp too much and then they would not be like shortbread cookies we are used to eating. Hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions


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